The Gift

Twenty-two days before my first day of freshman year in high school, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma. On that day in 2008, the old me died. And so began a long and difficult birth of 2 ? years, which would test my resolve and push me far beyond what anyone believed I could do. When I emerged on November 11, 2010, cancer free and reborn to a new life, I saw the world through an infant’s eyes. I saw truths that I didn’t have the insight to see before, truths so simple they are easily overlooked in this world where much is taken for granted. The most evident of these truths, the one that has brought me to the place I am now, which I believe with my whole being, is that everything, from the incredibly good to the heart-wrenchingly horrible, happens for a reason.
During my 2 ? year dance with cancer, my indomitable will to continue my life took over, and I discovered a strength I never knew I had.

I continued to go school when I really should have been in the hospital. On days when I could barely walk I went to the barn where I would climb onto the back of my horse and sit for hours at a time as he wandered the property. Before hospital visits, I would put on a wig, makeup, and a smile so I could walk into the chemo room ready to be wheeled out and go on like nothing had happened. Without consciously choosing to, I refused to let my cancer define me, and in doing so I found that I could define myself.
It wasn’t until after my rebirth that I finally asked myself the most simple of questions; Why? For several months I was stuck in a very dark place. I found no meaning in my experience, no rhyme or reason for the pain and suffering I had been through. Then someone said something to me that will forever be burned in my mind as my saving grace; “Thank God everything in our lives happened the way it did, because if it hadn’t, who knows if I would be here talking to you right now.” In the moments following that sentence it was as if the darkness had lifted and I found light.

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People often say they’re sorry when they hear I had cancer. I always counter with the same response; I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world. I treasure my encounter and believe it to be a gift. It didn’t give me anything I did not have before; rather it brought out qualities in me that might have lay hidden otherwise and made me prove to myself that I can conquer anything. It gave me insight that many people do not have, and a sense of gratefulness for every single thing in life, because I know that one day I will look back and thank God it all happened.

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